Alabama will play Washington and Ohio State is set to face Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinals.
The selection committee stayed with the same top four Sunday as it had going into championship weekend, leaving out No. 5 Penn State even though the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten title game and beat Ohio State earlier in the season.
The Buckeyes (11-1) are the first team to reach the playoff in its three-year history without winning their conference.
The unbeaten Crimson Tide (13-0) is in the playoff for the third straight season and is the top seed for the second time. They will play the fourth-ranked Huskies (12-1) in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 31.
Alabama has played Washington four times previously, twice in bowls and not since 1986. Huskies fans were holding up signs at games late in the season, proclaiming “We want Bama.”
“Sometimes you got to be careful what you wish for,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said on ESPN. “I didn’t hold up that sign.”
No. 2 Ohio State is making its second playoff appearance and No. 3 Clemson (12-1) is in for the second consecutive season. The Buckeyes and Tigers will meet at the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Arizona, on Dec. 31.
Ohio State and Clemson have played twice before, both in bowl games. The last time was 2014.
The one difference from last week’s top four and the final one was Clemson and Ohio State switched spots. So the Tigers will wear the home jerseys in University of Phoenix stadium instead of the Buckeyes.
Selection committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said the decision came down not to Penn State and Ohio State but the Nittany Lions (11-2) and Pac-12 champion Washington. The Huskies’ only loss was to Southern California and its nonconference schedule featured FCS Portland State, Rutgers and Idaho. Penn State played Pitt, Temple and Kent State in the conference and lost to the Panthers. The Nittany Lions also were beaten by 39 at Michigan in their last loss.
Penn State finished the season on a nine-game winning streak to make a strong closing statement.
“Had Washington had a stronger strength of schedule I do not think that conversation would have been as difficult,” said Hocutt, who is also the Texas tech athletic director.
The selection protocol does not require the committee to pick conference champions or the winner of head-to-head matchups.
“You can make arguments for and against so many teams,” Penn State coach James Franklin said on ESPN, adding his team was appreciative of the Rose Bowl bid it will receive.
The rest of the New Year’s Six bowls were set to be announced later in the day Sunday. The questions that remain:
- Which Pac-12 team will be in the Rose Bowl?
- Which Southeastern Conference team will play in the Sugar Bowl against Oklahoma?
- Which Atlantic Coast Conference team will play in the Orange Bowl, likely against No. 6 Michigan?
- Which teams will play in the Cotton Bowl? Unbeaten Western Michigan is likely to be the highest ranked Group of Five champion and get one spot.